COLUMN/ THE WRITE LINE
The ascendancy of the far-right in Indian politics is continuing the steady whittling away of the rights of the working man that started ever since the country gained independence.
Not so long ago, in one fell swoop, the Indian government snatched away the right of the worker to an eight-hour working day, which was a basic entitlement down the decades. When questioned, the authorities made it clear to the leaders of the central trade unions that a day may come soon when, if necessary, workers would be asked to put in 10 to 12-hour shifts with no overtime pay or related facilities.
The authorities added that employers would have the right not to entertain any questions in this regard from any quarter. Henceforth, there will be no court of appeal for aggrieved workers.
In other words, using its sense of arrogance to the hilt, the government struck down a long and glorious history of struggle and sacrifice whereby workers had earned the right to an eight-hour working day.
The central trade unions, with the understandable exception of the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), the labour arm of the RSS-BJP, have been vehemently criticising the move as unlawful and autocratic; as a lawless law enacted arbitrarily in violation of the spirit of democratic accountability; and an outrage devoid of all moral sense.
But who is listening?
Truth to tell, on hindsight, the suspension of trade union rights during Indira Gandhi’s 19-month ‘Emergency’ seems no more than a pin-prick compared to what workers and their families, among others, are being made to suffer in the present times.
One would have thought that for the sake of its own credibility, if nothing else, the BMS would put up at least a show of resistance to the injustices being done to the working class. But even that is, perhaps, too much to ask for in the present climate of compromise and abject surrender to orders from above.
In conclusion, an explanation, however cursory, of the government’s openly hostile attitude towards workers is perhaps necessary. It would seem that the government is ever-mindful of the debt it owes to corporate and other employers in many ways, but principally by way of their astronomical donations to the election campaigns of the ruling party.
One of the ways to ensure that the flow of funds continues till at least the 2024 national elections are held, is to keep pleasing the moneybags, what if in the process, it becomes necessary to cast the interests of the working man to the wolves.
Coming to think of it, even if the BMS leaders were to feel a twinge of conscience, there is little they can do anything about it. If they wish to remain in business, they must do what they are told to do, namely, run with the hare and hunt with the hound.
(Vidyarthy Chatterjee is a firebrand columnist and an eminent film critic. He writes on socio-economic and socio-political issues, movies, books, art and culture.)
The column reflects the author’s opinions and not necessarily those of Empire Diaries.
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